What exactly is a WordPress plugin?

WordPress March 4, 2017

If you take a closer look at WordPress, you will find that you can install so-called plugins in the backend. But what is it? Which plugins should you use and which shouldn’t? And how does the installation work?

In short, WordPress plugins are extensions that can be used to quickly and easily expand the functionality of the content management system. WordPress does not offer some functions that are part of every website “out of the box”. For example, if you want to integrate a contact form on your website, you need a plugin. This keeps the “core” of WordPress as lean as possible and can be individually expanded depending on requirements and wishes.

Large plugin selection

The selection of plugins is huge: the official plugin pool on WordPress.org now has almost 50,000 extensions. Whether plugins for contact forms, to improve loading times, slide shows, sidebar widgets or extensions for search engine optimization (SEO). There are no limits for your creativity. The successful shop system for WordPress — WooCommerce — is also available in the form of a plugin. In addition, there are a number of paid plugins available on various marketplaces. By the way, this large selection is unique. No other CMS offers such a large range of extensions – another advantage of the huge developer community around WordPress.

Reading tip: 10 good reasons for WordPress

Benefits of plugins

The ability to extend WordPress with plugins has a number of advantages. We would like to shed light on what these are in detail with the following list.

  • Functional expansion without modifications: One of the biggest advantages of plugins is that you can expand the functionality of WordPress without having to modify the core of the system. This not only saves a lot of time, but also ensures that the changes are not lost when you update WordPress.
  • Time and cost savings: Basic functions in particular, such as a contact form, really do not have to be developed from scratch for every website. Here the use of a plugin that brings all the desired functions with it is sufficient. This saves a lot of time and, above all, costs. Incidentally, this is also one of the many reasons why WordPress can be used to create sophisticated and professional websites at a fair price.
  • Updates: If you rely on high-quality plugins that are constantly being developed, you don’t have to worry about technical advances. Regular updates ensure compatibility with the latest server requirements (e.g. PHP version) and of course the WordPress version.

As little as possible, as many as necessary

Despite the extensive range of plugins, the extensions should be used with care. “As little as possible, as many as necessary” is a good resolution here. Because as useful as plugins may be, it should not be forgotten that every extension could also be a possible target for criminals. In addition, the performance of a website can suffer noticeably from too many or too many qualitatively inferior plugins. Under certain circumstances, the choice of the required plugins should be left to professionals, so that no inferior or no longer developed plugins find their way into your own WordPress system.

Incidentally, this is also one of the reasons why the myth regularly arises that WordPress is an insecure system. Many WordPress users are not careful when selecting plugins, making their WordPress installation an invitation for criminal hackers.

And speaking of WordPress security. The maintenance principle applies not only to WordPress itself, but also and above all to plugins. If you miss important (security) updates, you quickly risk functional and security problems. Here you can find more about WordPress maintenance.

Install WordPress plugin

Installing WordPress plugins is very easy. In the backend of WordPress you will find the item “Plugins” in the left menu bar. There you can get an overview of all installed extensions. Clicking on “Install” takes you to the WordPress plugin library and gives you access to around 50,000 extensions. The search function can be used to search for special extensions, and the “Recommended” or “Popular” tab can make the search easier, especially for newcomers.

Once the desired plugin has been found, the installation can be started by clicking on “Install now”. Depending on the size of the plugin, the installation usually only takes a few seconds. If you now select the “Activate” button, the plugin is activated and can be configured.

Another tip for selecting extensions: Important information can be found for each plugin, such as ratings or when the last update was released. In this way, you can determine at first glance whether the plugin meets certain quality standards and is regularly being further developed. Compatibility with the different WordPress versions is also indicated.

Conclusion on the subject of WordPress plugins

In our eyes, WordPress plugins are undoubtedly a blessing and a curse at the same time. While the conscious use of specific, high-quality extensions brings great benefits, using too many and/or the wrong extensions can quickly cause major problems. We therefore recommend that you obtain detailed information in advance when choosing plugins or seek advice from WordPress experts.

Do you need a WordPress agency? We are available as your experts. Get in touch with us and arrange a non-binding consultation.